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Accused murderers have not yet been tried for 1988 Nashua double homicide

Union Leader Correspondent

October 23. 2017 9:21PM
At left, David Caplin (in blue) and Anthony Barnaby (in orange) participate in a court hearing Monday at Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua. They are accused of killing two women in 1988 in the Gate City. (Kimberly Houghton/Union Leader Correspondent)

NASHUA — Two alleged murderers have served more than five years in prison and still have not been tried in connection with a 1988 double-homicide in Nashua.

On Monday, Anthony Barnaby and David Caplin appeared in a courtroom as Judge Jacalyn Colburn cautioned about the amount of time that has passed since their arrests several years ago.

“We’ve got to move the ball down the field,” Colburn told their attorneys at Hillsborough County Superior Court, urging them to set trial dates.

Barnaby, 50, and Caplin, 55, are both facing murder charges for the alleged 1988 killings of same-sex couple Brenda Warner and Charlene Ranstrom in Nashua.

Attorneys are still waiting for a ruling from the New Hampshire Supreme Court to move forward. An initial opinion was issued on Oct. 4 but the state asked the court to reconsider a few weeks later.

Previously, state prosecutors sought to take video trial deposition of 11 witnesses in Canada, however Colburn granted permission for only two of the witnesses to undergo video trial depositions.

Susan Morrell, senior assistant attorney general, argues in court documents that all 11 witnesses are “critical witnesses in the cases … each of them having first-hand knowledge of material facts relevant to the homicides, important evidence of motive and planning and/or critical admissions of guilt by the defendants.”

Morrell appealed Colburn’s ruling and the state’s highest court accepted the appeal earlier this year, but has not yet made a ruling on the matter.

“We will cross our fingers and hope we have something from them,” Colburn said of the New Hampshire Supreme Court; she scheduled a Nov. 27 hearing with the expectation that a ruling will have been made on the appeal by then.

All attorneys said they are prepared to try the cases in the first half of 2018.

“We now have very favorable DNA and evidence,” Attorney Mark Sisti, Barnaby’s legal counsel, said on Monday. He expects Barnaby’s trial to take about six weeks.

The Caplin trial is expected to take about four weeks, and will occur prior to Barnaby’s trial, according to an informal agreement made Monday in court.

Barnaby and Caplin, who grew up together on the Restigouche Reservation in the Canadian Province of Quebec, are both facing two alternate counts of first-degree murder and two alternate counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of the two former Nashua women.

“We have been doing a lot of work on this behind the scenes,” said Morrell.

However, Morrell said she still needs to secure co-counsel to assist with both trials. In addition, she said it could take several months to organize and schedule depositions between the U.S. Department of Justice and Canadian authorities once a ruling is made by the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

Attorneys for Barnaby and Caplin said they are prepared to try Caplin’s case in late January or early February of 2018, and Barnaby’s case in April of 2018; they did request a month’s break between the two trials.

“This has gone on way too long,” Sisti said of the delay.

“February might be ambitious,” said Colburn, explaining the court docket is already busy for that month. However, she said the two murder cases need to take precedence.

Barnaby is facing his fourth trial for the alleged 1988 killings. The three previous trials ended in mistrials. Caplin was also a previous suspect in the double murder, however he had the initial murder charges dropped.

The 1988 cold case was reopened a few years ago when evidence on several hair samples and a bloodied sock were submitted for modern DNA testing, allowing the newest arrests of Caplin and Barnaby in 2011.

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